As a curly-haired Jewish woman who came of age Brooklyn/Manhattan/New Jersey-style in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I know what it’s like to have hair that frizzes when the humidity exceeds two percent.
I spent years being nicknamed Roseanne Roseannadanna, because my hair grew across--not down--as it got longer (big love to Gilda Radner, but not to that particular character’s hairstyle). I suffered the ear-splittingly loud blowdryer and held the white and green Crazy Curl (PLEASE DON’T LET ME BURN MY NECK AGAIN!) in my hand constantly. In my mind’s eye, I can still see my friends with the straight, silky hair that could be styled--hair that swerved and whooshed and bounced and hid their faces when they turned their heads and just looked so pretty.
My dreams of having straight hair never really went away, but they certainly quieted down to a low roar. Come college, I embraced my curls. I found better hairstyles (this was still the '80s, so the bar for good hairstyles was low). Big hair (which I had--yay!) and hair bands were in. From the back, Jon Bon Jovi and I looked alike.
On top of that, studying and dating, which I did a lot more of at Tufts than I had done in high school, stole time that I used to use fighting my curly DNA. So, curly I went! No more fighting. One idiot asked me if I was going to straighten my hair after law school so that people would take me seriously as a lawyer, but I just gave her a death stare.
Time marched on. People loved my hair. I loved my hair. Styling products got better. I heard, often, that I was “lucky” to have “such beautiful curls.” I loved hearing how people paid good money to get hair like mine. I was feeling satisfied with my curls... until I was 43 years old.
Then came keratin.
I now spend my winters and springs straight and my summers and autumns curly. A curlbird instead of a snowbird, I am. I flee my curls in the cooler weather like retirees flee the northeast. In the world of hair, I have it all. I even get to be wavy as I transition from straight to curly at the end of the keratin’s lifespan.
But the circle of life continues. So now, I have a 15-year-old son, Adam (who is very happy with his hair, so he shall gracefully exit this article now) and an almost-13-year-old daughter, Elyssa (who is not happy with hers, so she gets to stay).
Elyssa is pretty and has drop-dead-gorgeous curls that could stop traffic. But she also has a mind of her own and dismisses anyone who tells her how amazing her hair is as crazy. She pulls her curls into a tight ponytail-bun situation so that no one can see them. She says her curls “make her sick.” Many times over the past few years, she looked at my keratin-treated hair and said, “I want keratin, too.”
Cognizant of the fact that she is, on some emotional level, feeling what I felt at her age, I saw this as a chance to save her some time at the therapist blaming her mother for everything. I understand! I want to save her pain. I want her to see what it feels like to look like the other girls. I want her to see that straight hair is fun, and she can enjoy her hair curly, too! I want to do something nice for her just because she’s my kid.
Like so many parents, I want my child to have what I never had.
So, I took her to get a keratin hair-straightening treatment. To be accurate, we did the keratin express blowout, rather than the full-on keratin treatment. It was sort of a test drive, and a far less expensive one at that. It would last about a month and a half, and then we could reassess if it was worth the money and if we should do it again.
I wish I could say that it worked like a charm and that she is now wearing a head full of long, silky locks, but that would be lying. Her hair was so hard to work with that we had to bring her back for a second application! And even then, she did not have the results for which she (we) had hoped.
But, whether it was all we expected or not, the fact remains that the kid did have straight hair for a time. She would blow it dry, and she would flat-iron it, and it would look really nice.
But alas, all good things must end, and keratin is one of them. She’s pretty much back to her curly self again, which is right in time for April showers and mid-Atlantic summer humidity.
Our salon told us that there is now a stronger full-on keratin treatment (think 6 on a scale of 1 to 3, and 3 used to be the strongest) that we can try. But it’s expensive. Very expensive. And it may not even be strong enough. And she’s TWELVE. So, I haven’t committed to getting it for her at this time.
But I won’t rule it out, because I’ve been there. I know firsthand what it’s like to be a curly girl in a world that worships straight hair. And, like my parents felt about me when they made certain decisions about my life, I felt that my child deserved a chance to be happy. I’m glad we tried.
Although the keratin wasn’t a guarantee, an eyebrow wax was a no-brainer. How can I say no to a quick, inexpensive answer to address one of her insecurities? How can I be the mother who does not care that her child is unwillingly sporting a unibrow? There are some things from which I cannot rescue my daughter, and there are some things from which I simply will not rescue her. The unibrow is not on that list.
Sometimes, I just want to pepper the inevitable fights between mother and adolescent daughter with moments of calmness and laughter. Sometimes, I just want to be the mom who understands her and gets it. Offering her the dream of straight hair and well-shaped eyebrows was my way of showing her that there is more to my life’s work than being the lady who nags her about her room and her dirty dishes everywhere and her homework and her overuse of her phone. It's my way of showing her that I love her and want her to be happy.
I think it's working.